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BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has heard about potential back issues with first-round pick Jared Sullinger, but they weren’t enough to scare him away from taking the Ohio State forward 21st overall.
“When the day started, I did not think he would be there at 21. We got wind that the back issues, he was slipping a little bit in the draft. He was projected much higher last week, and so we’re fortunate to get him,” Ainge said Thursday night. “We were concerned and we did our research on the back issues and felt comfortable.”
Still, Ainge admits it’s a situation the team will have to monitor, and could come up at some point.
“But there are some issues there, and our medical staff thinks that short-term and long-term there may be some maintenance issues with the back,” he said. “Doc Rivers played with a herniated disk for 13 years, so it may need surgery at some point, it may not.” “
Bad backs are a sore subject for Celtics fan, who often think back to the final days of Larry Bird hobbling around.
For the 20-year-old Sullinger, the bad-back talk began at the draft combine with many teams tossing a medical “red flag” on the former Buckeye. But Ainge had nothing but praise for Sullinger, who he’s been keeping an eye on for quite some time.
“I liked Jared for longer than his years at Ohio State. He was a terrific high school player, a dominant high school player,” said Ainge. “He’s been good everywhere he’s been and his teams win. What I like about him is he’s complete. He can pass. He can think. He can rebound. He can shoot.”
It’s a risk, but one that may pay off big for Ainge and the Celtics.